Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Just when you thought you had it pretty much figured out...

Just when you think you've figured out how to move through the world as a handicapped person, someone changes the rules.

Blind Pedestrians Say Quiet Hybrids Pose Safety Threat
Wall Street Journal
February 13, 2007; Page B1

For blind people, crossing the street is becoming even more of a challenge.

Michael Osborn, a blind marketing consultant from Laguna Beach, Calif., and his guide dog, Hastings, were in the middle of an intersection one morning last April when the yellow Lab stopped short. Mr. Osborn took the cue and halted -- just in time to feel the breeze from a car passing right in front of them.

"Half an inch and it would have hit us ... it wasn't making any noise," says Mr. Osborn, 50, who has been blind for 12 years. Witnesses say the car was a Toyota Prius, a hybrid vehicle.

Full article.
Some advocacy groups for the blind are suggesting that all hybrid vehicles should have to make a noise while running, and that manufacturers should be mandated to develop a technology to ensure they do. As someone for whom hybrid vehicles' silence is one of their more attractive attributes, I find that an unfortunate prospect; as a handicapped person who has often wished the world would do some little thing or other to make my life easier, I can hardly help but sympathize.

(One innovative solution mentioned in the article which would avoid more noise pollution would be a device which blind people could carry which would alert them to the fact that there was a hybrid in the area.)

It'll be interesting to see if the problem is taken seriously when there's little data to determine how big an issue it is (after all, should a car have been running an intersection at all if Mr. Osborn were in it legitimately? and if the car had been gasoline-driven and racing illegally past a blind pedestrian in an intersection, would he have had that much better chance of avoiding it?).




Blogger Brent McKee said...

At the risk of stating the obvious, how about a device that alerted a blind person when any vehicle is approaching. I'm not sure exactly how this would distinguish between a car running parallel to the pedestrian and thus no risk, and one on a collision course but you can't always tell just by the sound of a car when there's a risk (and then there are stupid drivers, but that's a whole other issue).

3:43 a.m.  
Blogger Mike said...

I'll bet there's been a time when some deaf person failed to notice a car. I think they should be required to have lightbars on top, like police cars, and to run them all the time.

Loud cars with flashing lights -- that'll keep us all safe!

6:50 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting story. I would think that simple running lights might be enough for deaf people, but I was instantly reminded of those "moose-whistles" you can get for cars here in Newfoundland. They put out a supersonic sound as they move, to alert moose. I wonder if you could arrange something like that in a lower frequency for blind people?

6:37 p.m.  
Blogger ronnie said...

Brent - If they can develop something that alerts the blind that a hybrid car is near, it figures that it could be rejigged to indicate the presence of any vehicle - but that could get pretty overwhelming in trafficked areas!

Mike - I like your vision of a horrific dystopian future in which we are all confused and frightened in the service of the handicapped. Who wil be equally confused and frightened - as we often are now, just in a different way - but at least then we'll all be in it together.

Sis - The real solution, obviously, is to train blind people to hear ultrasonic frequencies :)

7:44 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I said LOWER frequencies, you goose! ^_^

7:58 p.m.  
Blogger ronnie said...

Sis - I can't remember - who are we training again? The blind, or the moose? Or the whistles?

Incidentally, have you seen Mike P's photo on his weblog of his very first encounter with a Maine Moose? Or a part thereof?

Sort of?

8:32 p.m.  

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